Who Is Liable in a Slip and Fall Accident?
When premises owners fail to take care of their properties responsibly, serious accidents may occur, including slip and falls. In that situation, you may hold the negligent property owner, through their insurance company, liable for paying the accident victim’s related medical expenses and other monetary damages.
You may have legal options if you recently suffered injuries in a slip and fall accident on someone else’s premises. A skilled slip and fall accident attorney in your area can review your circumstances and determine your eligibility for filing a personal injury claim or lawsuit. Your lawyer can file your claim with the negligent property owner’s insurance company and negotiate fair settlement compensation for your accident-related losses.
If the insurance company does not offer you fair monetary damages for your slip and fall injuries, your slip and fall accident lawyer can file a lawsuit in the court system and recover the total economic damages you deserve.
Throughout your slip and fall injury case, your lawyer can address your legal concerns, guide you through the process, and develop realistic expectations for your case. Your lawyer can also represent you at all legal proceedings in the court system and work to recover the best possible result on your behalf.
Where do Slip and Fall Accidents Happen?
Slip and fall accidents can occur both indoors and outdoors. In many cases, outdoor slip and fall accidents happen when property owners fail to properly maintain the exterior of their properties, including sidewalks, driveways, roadways, parking lots, and parking garages. Slips and falls may result from concrete spalling, potholes, deep cracks in the pavement, and other severe defects that a property owner fails to repair promptly.
On the other hand, indoor slip and fall accidents are common at grocery stores and in kitchens and bathrooms, where water tends to spill on the floor and create a fall hazard.
If you suffered injuries in a slip and fall on someone else’s land, you may have legal options to consider. The right slip and fall accident attorney can investigate the circumstances of your accident and, if necessary, retain an accident reconstructionist who can visit the scene of the occurrence.
An accident reconstructionist can also review camera footage, speak with witnesses, look at incident reports, and determine your eligibility for pursuing a premises liability claim against the property owner’s insurance company. If necessary, an accident reconstructionist can also testify on your behalf at a discovery deposition or civil jury trial.
Property Owner Duty of Care
Property owners generally owe property visitors a high legal duty of care. The duty of care a property owner owes to a visitor depends upon the visitor’s status on the land at a given time.
Property owners owe business invitees the highest legal duty of care. A business invitee enters another person’s premises to benefit the property owner. Common examples of business invitees include shoppers at a store or mall, diners at a restaurant, and other business patrons. Property owners owe business invitees a legal duty to promptly warn about or correct known dangerous hazards.
Those hazards may include spills on the floor, exterior defects, and defective staircases or railings. In addition, property owners have a duty to inspect their premises regularly to uncover unknown defects. If they encounter a defect during their search, they must take prompt steps to warn about or repair it within a reasonable time frame.
Another classification of property visitors is a licensee or social guest. These individuals go onto someone else’s property for their benefit rather than to benefit the property owner. The duty of care that a property owner owes to a social guest is similar to the duty of care they owe to a business invitee. Specifically, a property owner has a duty to promptly correct (or at least warn about) known dangerous defects on their premises for the benefit of a licensee.
Finally, trespassers are individuals who enter someone else’s property without permission from the owner. In most situations, the property owner does not owe a trespasser a legal duty of care. However, if the trespasser is known to the property owner, the property owner may owe them some legal obligation to act reasonably under the circumstances.
A property visitor’s classification may also change at some point while they are on the property. For example, if an individual enters business premises during regular hours, they are likely a business invitee. However, they may trespass if they remain on the premises unlawfully after closing time. Given this change in status, the property owner’s duty of care to the visitor may change as well.
An experienced slip and fall accident attorney near you can determine the appropriate duty of care that a property owner owes under your circumstances. More importantly, your attorney can determine whether the property owner likely violated the duty of care under your circumstances.
Injuries in a Slip and Fall
Unlike drivers and passengers in motor vehicles, slip and fall accident victims do not have a thick metal shell or outer covering that surrounds them when they fall. Instead, they have direct exposure to their surrounding environment, including the ground.
The injuries that a slip and fall accident victim suffers depend upon how they land, how they fall, and the amount of force involved.
Common injuries that slip and fall victims may suffer include:
- Fractures and broken bones
- Soft tissue injuries
- Shoulder injuries
- Knee injuries
- Ankle injuries,
- Traumatic head and brain injuries
- Internal bleeding
- Internal organ damage
- Spinal cord injuries
If you recently suffered one or more of these injuries in a slip and fall accident, you should make the appropriate claim with the property manager or other individual. Follow the medical treatment regimen your healthcare provider recommends.
For example, you may need to consult with your primary care doctor, attend ongoing medical appointments or physical therapy sessions, and consult a medical specialist, such as an orthopedic doctor.
During this time, your lawyer can begin assisting you with your claim’s legal aspects and assemble a settlement demand package to send to the negligent property owner’s insurance company.
Negotiating with a Property Owner’s Insurer
In many situations, a slip and fall victim’s attorney will deal with the insurance company for the at-fault property owner.
Insurance companies are routinely tricky, especially in slip and fall accident cases. Insurance companies and their adjusters will do everything possible to undermine an accident claim and pay as little monetary compensation as possible. Insurance companies are big businesses and may lose a significant amount of money if they have to pay out a large personal injury claim.
Consequently, some insurance companies will allege that the accident victim caused or contributed to their own slip and fall accident.
When negotiating fair settlement compensation for your slip and fall injuries, you should have qualified legal counsel at every stage of your case. Your lawyer can combat the insurance company’s tactics and work to secure a monetary offer that truly compensates you for your slip and fall injuries. If the insurance company does not make an appropriate offer voluntarily, your lawyer can threaten them with courtroom litigation and, if necessary, prepare and file a lawsuit in court on your behalf.
After filing a lawsuit, your lawyer can assist you through the litigation and discovery phases and continue settlement negotiations on your behalf. In most slip and fall accident cases, the parties settle their case out of court. Reaching a favorable settlement is often preferable because it avoids costly and prolonged litigation.
If you decide to take your case to a civil jury trial, your lawyer can represent you and introduce the necessary evidence on your behalf.
Your attorney can explore alternative dispute resolution (ADR) options. Those options may include a mediation hearing or a binding arbitration proceeding. These hearings take place out of court and typically involve a neutral case evaluator who can help you reach a settlement – or render a fair arbitration award in your case.
Your lawyer can help you make informed and intelligent decisions about how best to proceed in your case and recover the appropriate monetary award you deserve.
Recovering the Compensation You Need for Slip and Fall Injuries
Slip and fall accidents can lead to debilitating injuries, some of which may be permanent and affect the accident victim for the rest of their life. Slip and fall victims who suffer permanent injuries may have lifelong pain and other symptoms. They may also have to undergo ongoing medical treatment in the future, such as physical therapy or pain management.
The total monetary compensation that a slip and fall victim recovers through settlement or litigation will depend upon the extent of their injuries, the nature of their medical treatment, and the cost.
If a medical provider determines that they may need to undergo a medical procedure or physical therapy in the future, those expected medical costs may become part of the accident victim’s total monetary award.
In addition to past and future medical expenses, slip and fall victims may be eligible to recover lost earnings if they had to miss time from work after their accident.
In addition, they can pursue non-economic damages for their intangible losses, including compensation for:
- Mental distress
- Loss of use of a body part (such as from paralysis)
- Loss of life enjoyment
- Loss of spousal consortium
- Physical pain and suffering
- Permanent disfigurement or disability
- Long-term care costs
Your lawyer will do everything possible to help you maximize your total monetary damages so you can become whole again after your premises accident.
Speak to a Slip and Fall Attorney About Your Case Today
If you suffered injuries in a slip and fall on someone else’s property, you should take the necessary legal steps immediately. Otherwise, you may inadvertently cut off your right to recover the necessary monetary compensation.
Slip and fall accident victims only have two years from their accident date to file a lawsuit for monetary recovery. Filing a lawsuit after the statutory deadline expires almost guarantees that you will not be eligible to receive any economic recovery for your losses. Therefore, you should act quickly after your accident.
A Personal injury attorney in Orange County can review all of your legal options with you and help you chart a successful course of action for your case. Your lawyer can handle all settlement negotiations with insurance company representatives and effectively litigate your case in court if necessary.